Kelsey Jones | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Kelsey Jones

(Herbert) Kelsey Jones. Composer, harpsichordist, organist, pianist, teacher, b South Norwalk, Conn, 17 Jun 1922, naturalized Canadian 1956, d Montreal 10 Oct 2004; B MUS (Mount Allison) 1945, B MUS (Toronto) 1947, D MUS (Toronto) 1951.

Jones, Kelsey

(Herbert) Kelsey Jones. Composer, harpsichordist, organist, pianist, teacher, b South Norwalk, Conn, 17 Jun 1922, naturalized Canadian 1956, d Montreal 10 Oct 2004; B MUS (Mount Allison) 1945, B MUS (Toronto) 1947, D MUS (Toronto) 1951. Jones grew up in Portland, Maine, and moved to New Brunswick in 1939 and studied with Harold Hamer at Mount Allison University. He later took classes with Sir Ernest MacMillan, Healey Willan, and Leo Smith at the University of Toronto and 1949-50 with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. Founder (and conductor 1950-4) of the Saint John Symphony Orchestra, he also taught theory 1948-9 and conducted the student orchestra at Mount Allison University.

Performer and Teacher
Moving to Montreal, he began teaching counterpoint and fugue at McGill University in 1954. He was named professor emeritus on his retirement in 1984. Jones was harpsichordist with the McGill Chamber Orchestra and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and in 1957 he co-founded the Baroque Trio of Montreal, which recorded his Sonata da Camera and Sonata da Chiesa. He and his wife, Rosabelle Jones, performed and toured as duo pianists in the 1950s.

Noteworthy Compositions

He also composed for the Montreal Bach Choir and the Montreal Recorder Group and, on commission, from the CBC, the Jeunesses Musicales of Canada, and the Tudor Singers of Montreal. Notable among works created for the CBC was his 1967 comic chamber opera Sam Slick (libretto by Rosabelle Jones), based on Thomas Chandler Haliburton's The Clockmaker, or the Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville (Halifax 1863). The opera was premiered 5 Sep 1967 in a broadcast performance from Halifax conducted by Ettore Mazzoleni.

His Compositional Style

Though much of Jones' music reaches back to archaic forms and the contrapuntal devices of earlier eras (Songs of Experience), he took pleasure in folksong (Miramichi Ballad) and made effective use of polytonality (Sam Slick). Jones considered himself 'a dyed-in-the-wool Romantic, in the sense that I express my feelings, because I'm a human being, not a machine... I can only write what has a true meaning for me.' Believing that music should reach directly the aural understanding and emotions of performer and listener, he showed little interest in the avant garde. Yet there is much dissonance in Jones' music, 'when there's a reason for it - when I want to hit somebody. If everything is dissonant,' he argues, 'you don't hit anybody.' Jones' papers are held by McGill University. He was a member of the Canadian League of Composers and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre.

Selected Compositions

Sam Slick, chamber opera (R. Jones based on Thomas Haliburton). 1967. 8 solo voices, medium orch. Ms


Miramichi Ballad. 1954. Full orch. BH 1972. ('Peter Emberly') RCI 152 (Chotem)/RCI 291/5-ACM 24 (A. Brott)/('The Jones Boys') Dom S-1372 (Feldbrill)/CBC SM-163 (CBC Winnipeg SO)/('The Jones Boys,' 'Peter Emberley') 1974? ST-57505 (St Catharines Youth Orch)

Jack and the Beanstalk (R. Jones). 1954. Child's voice, SATB, piano 4-hands (full orch). Ms

A Suite for Flute and Strings. 1954. Fl, string orch. Ms. RCI 191 (Montreal String Quartet)

Songs of Innocence (Blake). 1961. Sop, chamber orch. Ms

Adagio, Presto and Fugue. 1973. Str quartet, string orch. Ms

Fantasy on a Theme. 1976. Full orch. Ms


Four Pieces for Recorder Quartet. 1955. Ms. Bar BC-1857 (Duschenes Recorder Quar)

Mosaic. 1956. Fl, viola, harp. CBC Expo-16 (A. and J. Pach)

Sonata da Camera. 1957. Fl, oboe, harpsichord. Peters 1972. RCI 192/5-ACM 24 (Baroque Trio of Montreal)

Introduction and Fugue. 1959. Vn, piano. CMCentre. RCI 244 (Duo Pach)/RCI 220/RCA CCS-1014/5-ACM 24 (Bress violin)

Rondo for Solo Flute. 1963. Wat 1972. RCI 219/RCA CCS-1013/Sel CC-15-066/5-ACM 24 (Duschenes)

Sonata da Chiesa. 1967. Fl, oboe, harpsichord. Ms. CBC SM-56/RCA LSC-3091 (Baroque Trio of Montreal)

Quintet for Winds. 1968. Ww quintet. Peters 1972. 1971. RCI 355/5-ACM 24 (Pro Arte WW Quin)

Passacaglia and Fugue. 1975. Brass quintet. Ms 1978. McGill University Records 77004/5-ACM 24 (Mount Royal Brass Quin)

Musica d'Occasione. 1982. Brass quintet. Ms

Choir and Voice

Nonsense Songs (Lear). 1955. SATB. Leeds 1961. ('Five Limericks') CBC SM-19/Poly 2917-009/5-ACM 24 (Festival Singers)

Songs of Time (R. Herrick, T. Jordan, F. Quarles, J. Webster). 1955. SATB, piano 4-hands. Ms. RCI 144/5-ACM 24 (George Little Singers)

To Music, song cycle (Herrick). 1957. Alto, piano. Ms. RCI 203/5-ACM 24 (Forrester)

Songs of Experience (Blake). 1958. SATB. Ms. RCI 189 (Montreal Bach Choir)

Prophecy of Micah (adapted R. Jones). 1963. SATB, instr ensemble. Ms. RCI 355/5-ACM 24 (Tudor Singers of Montreal)

Songs of Winter (early Canadian poets, adapted R. Jones). 1973. Sop, alto, piano. Ms

Da Musica, con Amore (R. Jones). 1977. Mixed choir, brass quintet. Ms

Three Preludes and a Fugue: A Little Offering. 1982. SATB, saxophone. Ms

Other works for choir and voice and some works for piano (manuscript)

Also Jazzum Opus Unum. 1978. Jazz band. Ms. McGill University Records 78006/5-ACM 24 (McGill Jazz Band)

Further Reading